Formula 1 has secured its short-term future on German television with a new free-to-air deal on RTL – but there is still no guarantee about the future of its grand prix.
Although the German television audience has fallen in recent years, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone announced in Belgium on Friday that he had agreed a new two-year contract with free-to-air broadcaster RTL for 2016 and 2017 – with options to extend beyond then.
Ecclestone was especially happy that RTL had offered its commitment at a time when F1 has faced criticism and a falling audience.
“The ratings have gone down, but at least they had the courage to sign,” he said. “I am grateful for that.
“Whenever we speak to new people about television, I say do the same as RTL. You will be okay.”
German GP doubts
RTL's new deal for F1 coverage comes despite ongoing uncertainty about the fate of the German Grand Prix.
The event at Hockenheim has featured on the provisional 2016 calendar, but there remain some doubts about whether or not the event will actually happen.
When asked by Motorsport.com about the German GP situation, Ecclestone said: “Really I have no idea. We have a contract with Hockenheim until 2018, so let's see what happens.
"I hope that they will get some support, which is what they really need. They need support from Germany.”
Ratings fall no worry
Although Germany's television audience has declined in recent years, and the future of its race is in doubt, RTL was adamant that F1 still delivered.
Frank Hoffmann, Programme Director at RTL, said: “The figures are still good. They are not as good as they used to be – 2001 was the peak when we had 10 million average viewership, and now it is down to 4.5 million.
“But if you compare it to let's say blockbuster movies on German television – a blockbuster had 7.6 million and now in these years it is down to 3.5 million. So the market has changed rapidly and dramatically.
“If we compare the ratings of F1 to our main opponent in the private sector, the ratings of F1 outperforms every other type of broadcasting, so we are happy about the ratings.”